Tuesday 20 February 2018

Inspire, not retire: real-life communication tips success

Gina London
Gina London

Gina London

If you've been reading this column, maybe you've thought you might like to write to me to get some communications advice or encouragement. Pat Casey recently did just that. And now he's been kind enough to let me share his story with you. So today, instead of providing you a series of tips around a topic, I'm going let Pat explain how any of you - no matter where you are in your career - can benefit by improving your communications confidence.

Meet Pat Casey: Pat, a proud Kerryman, had retired after spending more than 30 years with the global food industry leader, Kerry Group. By all accounts, his career was a successful one. In fact, the role he left was top level and he departed as the company's chief information officer.

"It's an innovative and progressive company with fantastic leaders, people and vision. I got vast experience and the opportunity to work with many different people and cultures around the world," Pat says.

As much as he loves sports like GAA, rugby and playing golf, Pat also says he didn't want to simply exchange his lifetime of work experience for a new set of clubs. "I got advice from the great poet Brendan Kennelly that 'one should inspire, not retire'."

Deciding that he would try to use his expertise to work with digital startups in Ireland and Silicon Valley, Pat set out to reinvent himself. He researched; he read a variety of books - and he read this column.

"Your openness, down-to-earth, no-nonsense approach combined with the clarity and simplicity that you use to break down complex problems and articulate solutions through analogies and examples attracted me to your column on a weekly basis," he told me.

Until one day he decided to do more than read. He wrote me an email. "In all honesty, I did not expect a reply to my query. However, to my surprise, within two days I had a phone call and we started working from there."

We met in June at a conference room in the Hayfield Manor in Cork. During our session, I was able to guide and direct Pat how to layer on new strategies and techniques to help him better connect and position himself with intended business targets. I also helped him refine the way he spoke about himself and his goals and powered-up his LinkedIn profile.

"I found the session amazing as it confirmed my views from her writings in simplifying things and highlighting priorities. Most of all what impressed me was the interest Gina takes in her clients by summarising discussions to outlining key goals supported by positive proposals and following up with emails and phone calls to ensure things are happening."

Pat may be retired, but he's clearly not tired. Since our initial meeting, I am challenged to catch up with him between his various business trips that take him around Ireland and the US. Among his many new endeavours, he now sits on the advisory board of Nautilus Data Technologies, which claims to have created the world's most innovative water data centre design.

Forging alliances between universities, organisations and young tech entrepreneurs is what motivates Pat now. He says he learned some important ideas from me: "Look on everything as an opportunity. 'Every time you communicate, you are moving your relationships either forward or backward, never neutral.' Break down things into simplified steps. Understand that you are never not communicating. Network to help you and help others."

He networks with invigorated communications skills. It's the fuel that drives Pat's renewed ambitions.

"Change is good. You can begin again. At 65. You can give so much and inspire others."

Pat, you are a pleasure to work with. Thank you for writing. You certainly are an inspiration to me.

In other news: A couple of bees of communications no-nos have been buzzing around my bonnet. Time to get them out:


1. Remember old-fashioned phone number etiquette. This week a representative from a certain government department I won't name left a message for me to call back "right away". She verbally shot out her number like a bullet. I couldn't understand any of it. I hit the replay button literally a dozen times trying to piece the digits together, without success. I even played it back to an Irish friend thinking maybe it was my lack of accent prowess that left me dangling. But no. My friend couldn't decipher it either.

I know. Hardly anyone calls anyone anymore. We're all text or Facebook messenger or WhatsApp chat. But if you do happen to call someone and leave an actual voicemail, please remember to state your number clearly, slowly and then repeat it. You're about to point out that a smartphone will capture the number as a missed call, aren't you? But! If you're calling from an extension, the captured number is most likely going to be the organisation's main number which won't get you to the right person if they don't leave their name. Be courteous. Speak slowly and repeat your number.

2. Put your picture on your LinkedIn profile. If you reach out to me and don't have a photo, sorry, but I instantly hit "ignore." There's just no excuse. Get a nice, friendly photo of yourself and put it up there. It's the professional thing to do. Go hit me up again. This time I'll accept.


Are you thinking about re-entering the work-place? About to switch careers? Ready to retire? Let The Communicator help! Write to Gina in care of SundayBusiness@independent.ie

Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist who is now a director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant. @TheGinaLondon

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